Friday, December 22, 2017

Santo vs. Los Lobas

Santo vs. Las Lobas (aka Santo vs. The She-Wolves)
Rubén Galindo, Jaime Jiménez Pons

Santo is back and this time he’s been asked to help out with a werewolf problem.  Cesar Harker (Rodolfo de Anda), a wealthy magnate in a small village has come to see Santo in hopes of solving an increasingly dire werewolf problem. Luba, the queen of the werewolves is plotting to take over the world with some help from Transylvania. Cesar has read that only a silver symbol can put a stop to all this werewolf business and what better symbol than the silver mask of Santo himself!

Santo movies, for all their variety of foes and settings, often have pretty much the same plot. There’s a problem, Santo gets notified, Santo shows up and wrestles the problem into submission. Santo vs. Las Lobas follows this formula to a tee but makes the journey a lot more interesting along the way.  For starters, the normally implacable Santo shows fear when confronted with the unknown. He also manages to get bitten and has only a few days to kill Luba before he joins her ranks. These events make Santo vulnerable and give the movie some much need urgency.

"Doc, I got an owie..."
Urgency is needed because the plot starts out strong and then begins to meander all over the place with randomly appearing sidekicks, needless moments like characters dying only to be replaced with other identical characters, and the introduction of a second male villain (mainly because watching Santo suplex a woman for five minutes in the finale would probably not have gone over well with audiences at the time.) Werewolf moves often become mysteries as the characters hunt for who the werewolf might be during the day, Santo vs. Las Lobas indulges in this as well. It’s yet another time filler, but at least it’s unusual to see villagers react badly to Santo and try and kill him.

The look of Santo vs. Las Lobas is on par with most of Santo’s inexpensive productions, but like many Santo films the deep shadows and run down empty locations give the whole production a haunted desolate feeling. Combine this with the wandering plot and the whole film attains a strange nightmare quality that is more than the sum of its parts. The finale caps this off with an extended fight sequence underneath a red moon that covers the night with a murky blood-colored light.  The silent finale with Santo staring at the rising sun while the camera dives behind some shrubs to watch him is one of the oddest closing moments in a very odd series of films.
She goes though conditioner like you wouldn't believe.
Santo vs. Las Lobas is cheap, badly plotted and too long, but it is filled with little surprises and touches that come together to make an effectively eerie little action film.  A vulnerable Santo, some heavy atmosphere, and a dreamlike quality elevate this above a lot of luchador cinema into something truly strange. Santo vs. Las Lobas is a welcome surprise and I would recommend it to both the uninitiated and fans of luchador movies as a demonstration of makes them compelling.

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